It’s raining again.
Filming in jungle conditions means a constant battle to keep equipment dry. The worst problem by far for cameras is humidity, as moisture gets trapped behind the lens and fogs it up. We had a plan. We would build wooden boxes and rig up a light bulb in each box. The bulb would emit just enough heat to dry out the parts and prevent moisture from forming. Each one of the $35,000 cameras would have its own little box to rest and recuperate in every night, and would emerge the following morning dry, functioning, and ready to make reality television magic.
Making the boxes proved an epic endeavor. There are no hardware stores in the interior and plywood is worth almost as much as the cameras. Wood is plentiful — just cut down the nearest tree — but when you are trying to make a dry box building it out of sodden wood is far from ideal. However, our choices were scarce and trees were not. The Amerindians headed out into the forest to cut us some boards. It is an amazing process. The tree is cut down by chainsaw and a guy makes the first cut longways. Another guy takes a board with a few nails in it spaced a certain distance apart and he drags it along the fresh side, scoring it the whole way down to mark the lines to cut on. Then the chainsaw maestro freehand cuts the planks along the lines, and you end up with boards that would rival any you’d find at Ace Hardware. They have the process down to a science and it goes from tree to 1×12 boards in about 3 minutes.
And so we finished our boxes, sewed up some cheesecloth bags filled with rice to also help absorb moisture, and brought them into the mess hall where we’ve been staging our gear every night. The camera tech has the toughest job on this production. He has to be up before the camera guys every morning, and then he’s handed their muddy, dirty, wet, malfunctioning cameras every night and expected to make them whole again. In between, he races around the jungle with a 40lb backpack filled with batteries, tapes, tools, gaffer tape and Gatorade.
The attrition rate on this show has been worse than any cold weather project I’ve done, with the exception of Deadliest Catch when we lost ALL of our cameras during the Opilio crab season one year. Luckily, we didn’t lose the final camera until the very last week of filming. Here in Guyana, after less than two weeks, we have one 800 down, two EX-3s, and 2 5D’s. Flights in and out of Eteringbang have stopped indefinitely because of the rain and we have no hope for a resupply any time soon.
And so it was with dismay that I heard a frantic voice on the walkie this morning yelling, “We need to get those boxes out of the building right now!!!!” I walked into the tech room and there they were. Millions and millions of leaf cutter ants, all working together to dismantle and carry out every single grain of rice from the bags. The line of ants stretched 50 yards from the camera box into the jungle, each one carrying a single grain of rice as a guard ant moved up and down the line patrolling and keeping the peace. They must have thought they hit the lottery.